Overwatch's Ana Walks a Careful Line Between Offense and Support

Overwatch's Ana Walks a Careful Line Between Offense and Support

The newest Overwatch addition gives healers a chance to take more of an active role.

Even though it debuted two months ago, Overwatch has shown no signs of slowing down—and the recent addition of a new character, Ana, has pretty much sealed the deal for Overwatch being the game of summer 2016. (And quite possibly the fall.)

In case you missed her debut this week, Ana exists as the newest addition to Overwatch's support class. Like other members of this group, she's meant to serve the same basic function—namely, healing her teammates—but her assortment of abilities makes Ana very distinct from Overwatch's other possible choices. In short, she's sort of like a Widowmaker who can restore health, but her healing powers come at a price: the mobility and offensive power of other available snipers.

I managed to sink a few hours into playing as Ana since her debut, and, outside of the problem of so many other players also wanting to choose her, I didn't find Ana quite as intimidating as her three-star difficulty rating would imply. Of course, it helps if you've played as an Overwatch sniper before, since knowing some specific, out-of-the-way hiding spots will help you keep Ana's fragile body intact. It's a bit more difficult than that, though, as you can't stay camped out in one location for too long. While you can usually pick off opponents from a safe spot using Hanzo or Widowmaker, with Ana, you'll need to keep your team within your field of vision, since her bullets heal them as much as they hurt enemies.

Really, this biggest issue when playing as Ana can be found in knowing the right time to switch between offense and support. Her rifle might not be able to charge up like Widowmaker's, but the damage it can do to enemies isn't exactly negligible. But when you're staring down a choke point swarming with an equal amount of enemies and teammates, it's important to know when to start focusing on healing rather than attacking—especially if you happen to be your team's only healer. And it goes without saying that successfully healing with Ana requires much more effort than any other support character; teammates with low health will likely be trying their hardest to avoid enemy fire, making it even harder to hit them with your healing bullets.

In terms of other skills, Ana comes equipped with a few helpful abilities. Her Biotic Grenades increase healing for teammates caught in their explosion, and briefly negate healing for enemies caught in the blast. Their use is definitely situational, but I've had a lot of luck tossing them into congested combat zones, especially when my team was on the brink of overtaking or losing a payload or capture point—stopping any chance of healing for just a few moments can really make a huge difference. And Ana's Sleep Dart feels a bit like Mei's ice gun, but with more of a defensive role; while it can help take out a key opponent in the midst of battle, I've mainly had success using it when cornered to buy me some time to escape. (Needless to say, Ana isn't built for the front lines.)

Ana's ultimate attack, Nano Boost, is best used for organized pushes, and on offensive and tank classes. This ability has some pretty straightforward benefits: It temporarily increases the speed, offensive power, and defense of a targeted team member, making it ideal to use on characters designed to attack aggressively. Of course, you'll want other characters to help back up that team member, since this short-lived boost in power won't necessarily make them invincible to the entire enemy team.

Even though I've only had less than a dozen matches' worth of experience with Ana, I'm already impressed with how well this new character meshes with the other Overwatch cast members, especially in terms of balance. Seeing as the support class always felt a little underpopulated compared to the rest, it's likely Blizzard intended Ana to be available for Overwatch's original release.

Even so, Ana's late-to-the-party entrance hasn't disrupted Blizzard's careful balance, though I'm sure some savvy players will inevitably find exploits that'll be ironed out with future patches. Honestly, if you're new to support, you may want to try some other characters first; Lucio makes for the best "training" role since he heals just by virtue of being in close proximity to other teammates. But if you'd like to do more than heal—and have fairly good aiming skills—Ana provides a unique support role that'll keep you on your toes.

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